Schools face tough economic road ahead


Educators and education advocacy groups should “keep pressure on policy makers at every level to ensure that when they raise money and spend it on public services, they spend it wisely,” he said.

The “additional federal fiscal relief” that the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says is necessary to help states avoid additional deep budget cuts and layoffs might come, in part, via legislation approved Dec. 16 by the U.S. House of Representatives.

That legislation would direct $23 billion to an “education jobs fund,” which districts and states could use for both K-12 and higher education to restore cuts made in schools, for teacher compensation, and also for school modernization and repair. The $23 billion is part of $75 billion total for job relief that comes from the Jobs for Main Street Act, a bill that redirects funds already approved for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, which originally was intended for bank relief aid.

The U.S. Senate is not expected to vote on the bill until next year.

The legislation says that the money would be distributed, over two years, similarly to the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund of the ARRA. Under that fund, states receive funding based on primary education funding formulas. States are not allowed to use the money to replenish their rainy day or reserve funds. And at this stage, states would not have to show that they are adhering to the U.S. Department of Education’s key reform areas in order to receive the funds.

Before the House vote, the NEA urged its members to voice support for the creation of an education jobs package on the basis that “additional federal money for public education will have an immediate impact on improving the employment picture, because it is one of the most labor-intensive industries. Saving an education employee from being laid off involves no wait time for grants and contracts to be drawn up or materials to be acquired.”

Such a fund also would keep schools fully staffed, preventing class sizes from increasing, which would jeopardize efforts to raise student achievement and ensure U.S. competitiveness, the NEA said.

Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, said the jobs bill will help to ensure education security for students across the country.

“We get reports from across the country … [of] the gains that young people in America are making in terms of the proficiency in reading and mathematics and elsewhere,” he said, adding that the nation can’t afford to lose these valuable gains because of further budget cuts and layoffs in school districts.

“We need to continue the investments that we have been making in the education of America’s young children by making sure that we do not lose hundreds of thousands of teachers across the American landscape,” Miller said.

Links:

SIIA Online Ed-Tech Business Forum

National Education Association

American Federation of Teachers

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

2010 Jobs For Main Street Act (PDF)

Laura Ascione

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